Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Illustration by Tobias Mayer, 2022

Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. / What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Romans 4:15, 7:7

Paul talks frequently about laws and rules in his epistle to the Romans. He makes the point that laws are not arbitrary, but are born of necessity, and an inner sense of what is right. The law—the Torah, Roman rule, or any local collection of laws or rules—is a set of agreements that we opt to live by. Before the written law we had already, implicitly, agreed to live by these rules of conduct by very dint of being in community. Laws such as "thou shalt not kill", or "they shalt not covet" are, in Kantian terms a priori rules: they existed before we existed, and will persist long after we are gone. By writing them down we are calling them out so that each may call the other to task when a rule is broken. The written law prevents leaders from acting on their own whim. The law is the law of the citizenship. God's law may differ from man's law in certain ways, but each is given with the intent of maintaining a peaceful community, supporting both individuals and groups in the fairest way possible. God's laws add a spiritual aspect, where we not only do the right thing but we do it in the service of something greater than ourselves: we do it with purpose.

In our modern-day work environments we are no less in need of agreement than are the citizens of a town, city or country. Protocol is another word we may hear in the workplace. Many of our rules, agreements or protocols are implicit. We know when to interrupt people, when not to; who to talk to casually, who to talk to formally; we know how much flex we have in arriving late or leaving early; we know how to dress, when to dress up and when to dress down; we know when to joke and when to be serious. There are usually a few rules called out in the employee handbook, but most of our behaviour is governed by what we have come to call business culture. Generally, this all worked well, and then in March 2020, lockdown! Suddenly we were all working from home (or as one local London council described it, perhaps more realistically: at home, trying to work amidst family chaos and great uncertainty). Suddenly all our innate, in-person protocols did not apply. Was it necessary to have your video on all the time, or even for every meeting? What about audio? Can I sit here in silence, with no picture, just listening? How do I know those others are even listening—or are even there? How do we now assess progress, or see who is working hard and who is slacking? Some of the greatest pain I witnessed in early lockdown came down very simply to lack of protocols for the new paradigm. It took up to a year for some companies to sort this out.

To Paul, God was a God of order, not chaos. Order was vital for us to honour God, and give ourselves to Jesus Christ. The law itself governed man far more effectively than any human leader. This was true in 2020 in the corporate space too. No matter how charismatic and inspiring the CEO, without a working protocol nothing got done...and things fell apart. It is not for nothing Paul calls out the importance of the law, and (as we'll see in the next post) urges his fellow Christians to submit to the law of the land.